Start time: 9pm ET
TV: SEC Network (Paul Sunderland, Gail Goestenkors, Steffi Sorensen)
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio/Live Audio: 107.5 The Game/Gamecock IMG Sports Network
Losing to UConn - whose win streak is now at 102 after torching Temple last night - was just a blip on the radar screen for the Gamecocks’ women’s basketball team. Losing to Mizzou? That’s a whole different story.
South Carolina hopes that’s not foreshadowing for a short stay in the NCAA Tournament as they step on the court for their final road game of the season in Aggieland. While a top seed in the SEC Tournament isn’t out of the question (they need to win their remaining two and have Mississippi State split thanks to their win over the Bulldogs head-to-head), it might take a little more doing to get a top seed in the NCAA Tournament: likely sweeping their final two games and running the table in Greenville, preferably against the Bulldogs in the championship game. First things first: beating Texas A&M.
Gary Blair’s Aggies should be in the tournament by virtue of their RPI of 20; Charlie Creme has them as a five seed in the Oklahoma City region and opening against 12-seed Gonzaga in Los Angeles. They have a few key wins under their belt against teams like Syracuse (at home), Kentucky (in Lexington), and resurgent Tennessee (in Knoxville). They’ve also played Mississippi State well both times they’ve faced them this year, dropping a five-point decision at Reed Arena on Sunday. It’s clear that the Gamecocks need to be laser focused to avoid falling to a group that is looking to improve its tournament seeding and earn a more favorable matchup in March.
The Aggies are led by a core of four players that have started every single game for the team this year. Sophomore Danni Williams is at worst a SEC First Team postseason pick with her 17.7 points per game, while Khaalia Hillsman checks in at 16.8 points and 8.6 rebounds an outing. Point guard Curtyce Knox is one of the top playmakers in the league, dishing out 9.4 assists a contest to just 3.2 turnovers, good for a solid assist to turnover ratio of 2.85. If the Gamecocks can frustrate Knox into unforced errors and take her out of the picture, while closing down on Williams and Hillsman, it will force the Aggies to get creative and look for different ways to score. One of the key battles of the night, though, could focus on Alaina Coates vs. Anriel Howard. Cutting off Howard inside while seeing success with Coates and A’ja Wilson on the other end - and, at the same time, gaining the edge in the rebounding battle - should help open the door to a Gamecocks win.